It was developed as a means to check shooter proficiency. Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite Academy and designer of the drill, didn't name the drill El Presidente. That came later when it was adopted by IPSC as a standard competition stage.
To perform the classic version, start with your back to three Gunsite silhouette targets, 10 yards away, spaced 1 yard apart. On signal, turn, draw and engage each target with two rounds, reload and fire two more rounds at each target. It is a timed drill with a 10-second par time for semi-autos and 12 seconds for revolvers.
To score this drill, five points are awarded for every hit in the 8-inch center ring and two points for all other hits on the target, for a possible score of 60. Five points are added to the score for every full second under 10 and five points deducted for every full second over 10. Because of the time factor, the potential exists to score more than 60.
Cooper believed this drill was not the sort of thing one should practice. He thought it best used as a test to measure what a person was capable of, with the gear they were carrying, at any given time. He also stressed it was not necessarily the correct tactical solution when dealing with three armed threats.
El Presidente combines several skills: turning, drawing, shooting accurately and quickly and reloading. It epitomizes the need for balancing accuracy, power and speed—Diligentia Vis Celeritas as it is often cited at Gunsite. According to Ed Head, the operations manager at Gunsite, "Cooper felt anyone capable of performing this drill on demand, with a suitable carry pistol, achieving a score of 45 or better, was probably an expert with their firearm and carry gear. Some professional shooters are capable of shooting this drill on large steel targets in four or five seconds. I have never seen anyone do it properly, that fast, with a good score on paper targets—the-way we still do it at Gunsite."
As an interesting side note, Head said he can remember Cooper riding his three-wheeler down to the range while a group of students ran through this drill. He would say, "Ed, they aren't doing it right." Cooper had been listening to the cadence of the shots being fired from up at his house. According to Cooper, properly done, it should sound like six evenly spaced shots, a pause for the reload and six more evenly spaced shots. Not three separate double-taps with a reload pause, then three more distinct double taps.